White-tailed Sea Eagle Animals & Plants

About the White-tailed Sea Eagle

The fourth largest bird of prey in the world - and Europe’s largest - is the White-tailed Sea Eagle. A relative of other raptors such as the hawk, kite and harrier, it measures nearly 100cm in length and has a wingspan of 2.5 metres.

Adult Sea Eagles are primarily brown in colour with paler heads and a distinctive white tail, while females are slightly larger than their male counterparts.

Habitat

The largest population of the bird is currently found along the Norwegian coastline, but it also inhabits areas around remote lakes and marshes further inland across Europe and Asia.

Wild Notes

The Sea Eagle is a scavenger and feeds on the remains on dead animals (carrion), though it does also hunt other sea birds, fish and smaller mammals.

 

It constructs large nests of branches and twigs high up in trees or along cliffs, and the female lays an average of two eggs that are then incubated by both parents for about six weeks. The young tend to fledge the nest after ten weeks and while White-tailed Sea Eagles are slow to breed, they can live up to 60 years of age.

Conservation

Globally, Ireland is the only country to have lost its entire Eagle population as the White-tailed Sea Eagle became extinct here in 1901. The Golden Eagle disappeared soon after. As an apex predator at the top of the food chain, Eagles are susceptible to secondary poisoning from their prey and also suffer persecution at the hands of farmers and gamekeepers, who considered them a threat. 

The Golden Eagle Trust Limited currently manages two Eagle reintroduction programmes in Ireland - one for Golden Eagles in Donegal and another for the White-tailed Eagles in Killarney, Co. Kerry. The latter seeks to re-establish viable, self-sustaining and breeding Sea Eagles in the south west of Ireland after an absence of 110 years.

Did you know?

During the breeding season, while they are rearing young, Sea Eagles require 500-600g of food per day. This drops to 200-300g per day during the winter months when the birds are less active.

The Fota Connection

Separate from the reintroduction programme being supported by the Irish Government in Kerry, Fota has seen several White-tailed Sea Eagle chicks born in Cork in recent years. A chick born to parents Maeve and Conor in 2011 was later released back into the wild near the Golan Heights in the Middle East and it is hoped the Park can continue to play a role in the bird’s future here in Ireland.

Recent developments at Fota have seen the Eagle’s exhibit expanded to take in an area over the Harbour Seal’s habitat - allowing the bird fish for additional food in a similar manner to the way it feeds in the wild.

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